Don't Look Too Close
Shortly before Sims’ arrest Portland had one of its most shocking domestic violence cases. Some remembered the death of Kitty Genovese in New York City a few years before. New Yorkers took quite a beating for not helping a poor young woman as she begged for her life. In September 1969, Portlanders proved that they could be as callus as any New Yorker.
It began at the Duke Hotel, now the Whitney Gray Apts, on SW 12th, above Jake’s Famous Crawfish on September 14. Rosalie (Glenda) Hornsby, 30, was drinking in the room of Finis Taylor on a Sunday evening. About 9:30pm there was pounding on the door. Rosalie probably knew that it would be John Peterson, 30. She had been living with Peterson at the Miller Hotel and she must have known how possessive he was. We’ll never know if she knew how violent he was.
Peterson grabbed Hornsby and pulled her from the room. He pulled her so roughly that her head hit the wall, hard. Police later found a dent in the plaster and a smear of blood. Hornsby lost consciousness and if she was lucky she never regained it.
Finis Taylor, who had been drinking with Hornsby, closed his door and did not call the police. Hotel managers Leonard and Alice Dorland were downstairs at the time and came up in the elevator to investigate the huge crash.
When they arrived on the third floor they found Hornsby on the hallway floor with Peterson standing over her. Peterson picked her up and the four rode down in the elevator together. The Dorlands noticed that Hornsby was unconscious and having trouble breathing. As the elevator descended they also noticed that she lost control of her bladder.
The Dorlands said later that Peterson had told Hornsby to wake up more than once. “Wake up. I’ll kill you if you don’t,” Peterson said. Dorland followed Peterson as he carried Hornsby to a car outside the building occupied by two other men. One of the men (who was never identified) said, “Don’t look too close. Everything will be all right.”
Dorland did not call police, although “he was tempted.” “We would have called,” he said, “but he [Peterson] said they were married.”
A short time later Peterson entered the Miller Hotel, now Hotel Alder, on SW 4th, where he and Hornsby lived. Peterson was carrying Hornsby according to night clerk Wilson Rich. Rich believed that Hornsby was drunk.
About 12:30am Peterson called downstairs and spoke with Russell Jones, who had taken Rich’s place at the front desk. Peterson told Jones that he had hit his wife and wasn’t able to wake her. He asked Jones to come to his room to check on her.
Jones went to room 305 where the couple lived and saw Rosalie Hornsby lying on the bed with the covers pulled up to her chin. He said that he did not enter the room or look around it. He did not try to talk with Hornsby, but said she appeared to be alive and sleeping and he thought she was probably drunk.
Jones did not call the police. Peterson stayed in his room for about an hour making phone calls and left the building at about 1:30am. He told Rich he was going to get a car to take his wife to the hospital. Peterson did not return and Rich forgot about the woman dying upstairs.
About 2:55 am, Johnny Lewis, occupant of another room on the third floor called the police. He said he had been walking past room 305 and noticed that the door was open. He looked in and saw Rosalie Hornsby naked on the bed and she had apparently been beaten.
When police arrived they found that blood was splattered all over the walls, floor and furniture in room 305. Rosalie Hornsby died the next day at Multnomah County Hospital. John Peterson turned himself in to Police later that day and was charged with first degree murder.